HOW TOBY FOUND A FRIEND

The discovery of the incriminating papers cost Toby the confidence of
many of his fellow townsmen. Popular opinion had been about evenly
divided, before that, but it was hard to argue innocence in the face of
such adverse evidence. Yet, even while conceding the boy’s guilt, the
Riverdale people were regretful and grieved rather than condemnatory.

“Ye see, it’s this way,” said Tom Rathbun the grocer to a crowd that
had gathered in his store; “Toby’s a nice little chap an’ has tried
to be honest. But he comes of bad stock; his father owed me seven
dollars when he died an’ his mother were addicted to drink, as you’ll
all remember. ’Tain’t to be wondered at that with such parents Toby
inherited some desprit bad failin’s, an’ when the jedge died, an’ the
boy’s fat job was killed, he jes’ natcherly yielded to the temptation
to take Mrs. Ritchie’s box, knowin’ it were full o’ money. Seems like
if the jedge had lived Toby’d ’a’ kep’ himself honest, an’ growed up to
be a decent man; but when he lost his best friend he backslid an’ got
caught at it.”

Rathbun’s expression voiced the sentiment of the majority, although a
few staunch friends refused to admit the evidence against Toby Clark.
Perhaps the boy’s most bitter condemnation came from Dave Hunter,
the young telegraph operator, who seemed certain of Toby’s guilt and
proclaimed his conviction everywhere and on every occasion.

Lawyer Kellogg was jubilant over his success in “landing his bird at
the first shot,” as he proudly stated, and swaggered more pompously
than ever. Mrs. Ritchie, however did not congratulate him. The woman
seemed terribly nervous over the missing contents of her box and rated
her lawyer for not recovering them. One important paper, especially,
had disappeared, she claimed, and she laid more stress on Kellogg’s
finding that than on finding her money and bonds, although she was
notoriously careful of her money.

“Drat the mortgages an’ deeds!” she cried angrily; “no one could turn
’em into money if they tried; it’s the negotiable stuff I want. An’
you’ve got to get it, Abner Kellogg. The boy ain’t had a chance to
spend the money, or sell the bonds, an’ there’s no reason you can’t
make him give ’em up. Whatever else you do, though, you’ve got to find
that other paper. I want it, an’ I’m goin’ to have it! We’ve got the
thief, all right, so why don’t you get back my property?”

“I can’t, just yet,” protested Kellogg. “The money is not on Toby’s
person and he won’t tell where he’s hid it. But be calm, Mrs. Ritchie;
be calm and trust to me. When the case comes to trial I know a way
to make Clark confess, and I’ll get every cent of your money and the
missing paper, I promise you.”

“I don’t trust you,” declared the old woman. “I think you’re as big a
villain as Toby Clark. I hired you ’cause you agreed to catch the thief
and get my property back or you wouldn’t charge a cent. I made you sign
that agreement in black an’ white.”

“Quite true, Mrs. Ritchie; but give me time. I’ve got the thief, and
I’ve recovered part of your property! Give me time and I’ll get the
money and the bonds. The boy can’t spend anything while he’s in jail
and sooner or later he’ll confess where he’s hid the stuff.”

“If you hadn’t caught the thief,” rejoined Mrs. Ritchie, savagely, “I
could have held the Fergusons responsible. Now they’re out of it and
if you don’t get the money from Toby it’s gone for good. I want that
paper, too.”

“Don’t worry; I’ll get it all; give me time,” repeated the lawyer.

Mr. Holbrook, on the other side of the case, was proceeding very
leisurely. Orders had been received to have the prisoner brought to
Bayport for a preliminary examination, and soon after Sam Parsons had
left the jail with his charge, taking him in a buggy over to the county
seat, the young lawyer and Mr. Spaythe started for the same place in
the banker’s automobile with Eric Spaythe, the banker’s only son,
acting as driver.

“This latest discovery looks very black for our client,” remarked
Holbrook, as they sped over the smooth country road.

“Do you refer to the finding of those papers?” asked Mr. Spaythe.

“Of course, sir. It’s rather damning evidence.”

“I cannot see that it is any worse than the finding of the box,”
asserted the banker.

“It fastens the accusation more firmly,” Holbrook stated. “With us it
can have no effect, but others will be likely to condemn our client on
the strength of such conclusive proof.”

“I do not care what others think,” said Mr. Spaythe.

“No; I was referring solely to the jury that will try him. These jurors
will be drawn from the entire county, and some will not be intimately
acquainted with Toby Clark or have any confidence in his record for
probity.”

“Whoever placed the box in Toby’s yard placed the papers in his room,”
asserted Eric, speaking for the first time. “The place was never
locked, and as the real thief wanted to get rid of such dangerous
property there was no better place in all Riverdale to hide it in than
Toby’s shanty.”

“I shall use that argument in my defense,” remarked the young lawyer in
a careless tone that annoyed Eric.

“I trust this case will never come to trial,” resumed Mr. Spaythe after
a pause. “What steps are you taking to discover the criminal?”

“My first idea was to prove an alibi for Clark, but that I am unable
to do. He was twice seen entering Judge Ferguson’s office, the day
following his death. I myself found him there when I went to look at
the rooms with Chandler the postmaster. When the boy left the place the
second time he carried under his arm a parcel large enough to contain
Mrs. Ritchie’s box. Finding that Kellogg had unearthed this fact and
would use it in evidence, I went to see Toby about it. He tells me it
was a package containing his personal books and possessions, which he
was removing from the office. I believe this statement, for he had the
package in plain sight when he carried the key to you, at your house.”

“I remember,” said Mr. Spaythe.

“But several others saw and noticed the package, and I understand that
all of these will be subpœnaed as witnesses at the trial.”

“But about the guilty one–the person who actually took the box from
the office–have you any suspicion as to his identity?”

Mr. Holbrook was lighting a cigarette and took time to answer.

“Not as yet, sir. But I shall begin a thorough investigation in the
near future and try to secure a clew to guide me to success.”

“We ought to have had a detective,” grumbled Eric, but Mr. Holbrook
ignored the remark.

At this moment they swung around a bend and overtook the buggy in which
the constable and Toby Clark were seated. They seemed to be chatting
together in a friendly manner and as the automobile passed them Eric
cried out:

“Cheer up, Toby! There’s nothing to worry about.”

Toby nodded. He did not look like a thief. His eyes were still
twinkling as of old and his cheeks were fresh and rosy. He had no
smile for his friend’s greeting, for the accusation against him was
very serious, but neither did he wear a hang-dog expression nor seem
confused.




“I want you to work earnestly on this case,” said Mr. Spaythe, when
they had passed beyond hearing. “Toby Clark must be cleared of the
unjust charge, and the only way to do it is to discover who is actually
guilty. I depend upon you, Mr. Holbrook, to do that, and without any
waste of time.”

Holbrook colored red and waited a moment before he replied.

“I realize,” said he, with deliberation, “that my reputation as a
lawyer depends upon my success in this, my first case in Riverdale.
Unless Toby Clark is actually guilty, and is proved so without
question, I shall lose the confidence of the community by not fastening
the guilt on the real criminal. Therefore you may rest assured that I
shall do everything in my power to vindicate my client. I cannot now
confide to you the various processes I intend to employ, for that would
be unwise; but I am conversant with the latest scientific methods of
criminal detection, having made them a study for years, and I do not
think they will fail me in the present case. If they do, I must stand
the consequences, which will not be less severe for me than for my
client.”

Eric gave a scornful grunt, the speech was so evidently conciliatory
and noncommittal, but Mr. Spaythe forbore any comment.

The preliminary hearing was brief. The judge knew Mr. Spaythe and gave
him a seat beside his desk. He had heard of Mr. Holbrook, the new
Riverdale lawyer, but now met him for the first time.

Lawyer Kellogg, fat and pig-eyed, presented his evidence against the
prisoner with an air of triumph that was distinctly aggravating to the
defense. The judge listened carefully, noting each point made on his
memoranda. Then Mr. Holbrook, speaking for the prisoner, pleaded “not
guilty” and asked that a reasonable amount of bail be fixed until the
case came to trial. The judge frowned and considered.

“The offense, if proved, is serious,” said he, “and the missing money
and bonds alone amount to many thousands of dollars in value. The
evidence is so strong and the accused so young and irresponsible, that
I hesitate to fix bail in this case and prefer to remand the prisoner
to the county jail to await his trial.”

Kellogg grinned and rubbed his hands together gleefully. But Mr.
Spaythe, in his quiet way, leaned over the desk and said:

“I hope, Judge, you will reconsider that decision. This boy is very
dear to many in Riverdale, where he is thoroughly respected. I myself
have a strong personal interest in his welfare and believe that in
spite of the evidence just presented to you he will be proved innocent.
To allow him to languish in jail for two months or more, only to
discover that he has been falsely accused, would be a grave injustice.
Therefore I am prepared to furnish his bail in whatever sum you demand.”

“Ah,” said the judge, “that alters the case. Five thousand dollars.”

Mr. Spaythe signed the bond and then turned to Toby.

“You are to ride back with us,” he said, “for I want you to come to my
house and make it your home until this cloud has been removed from your
good name–as it surely will be, in time.”

Toby’s eyes filled with tears.

“You are very kind, Mr. Spaythe,” he replied brokenly, “but until I can
prove my innocence to the world I have no right to go to your house.
I’ll go–home–and work this thing out. But I thank you, sir; I thank
you with all my heart!”

“Look here, Toby,” said Eric sharply, “you’re going to do just what the
governor says, if we have to lug you home by force. Don’t be a fool;
it’s a step in your redemption. Don’t you see how it will help, to have
father stand up for you before all the world!”

Toby looked helplessly around the group and appealed to his lawyer.

“What do you advise, sir?” he asked.

“That you do as you suggest and, declining Mr. Spaythe’s kind
invitation, go directly to your own home,” answered Mr. Holbrook.

“All right,” said Toby, a humorous twinkle in his bright eyes; “I’ll
accept your hospitality, Mr. Spaythe, and hope I won’t be too much
trouble to you.”

“Bravo!” cried Eric, and danced a little jig over Holbrook’s
discomfiture.